Understanding hatred

A conference about incitement and anti-Semitism was intended as a jumping-off point to presenting a draft for a convention on combating incitement and violence to the UN.

JCPA 2011 conference 521 (photo credit: Steven J. Frantzman)
JCPA 2011 conference 521
(photo credit: Steven J. Frantzman)
Hadassa Ben-Itto, a retired judge and honorary president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, is a frail woman but she was on form, speaking clearly and persuasively about the need to prosecute incitement.
“America has a free-speech problem,” she said. “The issue of incitement leads us to the question: why do we need a [new] convention? I was party to the drafting of the convention against racism in 1965 in the UN and we have material there that can be used against incitement. We need another convention because incitement today has become a major issue. The public [has] recognized this. I have been saying for the last 20 years that what is being said against the Jews only meets from our side with a defense. Either we do nothing or we are on the defense. I think the time has come for us to be proactive. We are just monitoring!”
The short exhortation, delivered in the late afternoon when the conference-goers were tired and full from their lunch, brought the crowd to life.
The one-day gathering, hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a Jerusalem-based think tank, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Stiftung), brought several hundred people together at the David Citadel Hotel on November 8.
Former Israeli ambassador to Canada Alan Baker, director of the JCPA’s Institute for Contemporary Affairs, explained that the impetus for the conference was the percieved need to get the ball rolling on presenting a draft for an international convention on combating incitement to terror and violence.
“When I drafted, in the Foreign Ministry, a treaty on suicide bombing, I tried to pursuade the Americans, Indians and Turks to sponsor [it]. I [was told] that there was already a law on incitement to terrorism and [that] ‘we can’t accept it because it goes against freedom of speech,’ and I realized that this [issue] of free speech and incitement must be dealt with because it isn’t just in the mosques, but on the Internet.”
Technology, said Baker, has aggravated the phenomenon, which he said “needs to be treated and dealt with as an international crime like slavery and piracy.”
The conference is a build-up to a draft convention to be presented to the UN secretary-general, he said.
Many of the lectures brought audience members to the edge of their seats, as each speaker delivered weighty presentations on incitement and racism, primarily against Jews and Israel.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, an author of numerous studies on anti- Semitism in Europe, gave a discussion on anti-Semitism in European schools. He explained that there is a dearth of academic studies on anti-Semitism in primary and secondary education in Europe.
“Are the lectures neutral? Does the school have Holocaust education? Is there harassment of Jewish teachers? Has there been violence against Jewish schools? Are Jewish students harassed when they leave school? What is the attitude of the non-Jews?”
He argued that it was imperative for Jews, Jewish parents and the government to invest more in studying and combating anti-Semitism.
“To conclude, a new generation of Israel-haters is being educated in the Western democratic world,” he said.
“[Building on what Gerstenfeld presented] I recommend a system to try to take advantage of the Internet because its [content is still online]. [When you examine textbooks] you don’t know what part of the textbook is designated for [which classes and], you don’t even know [what the students] learn [from] it. You [also] don’t know how the students were impressed by it."
Sivan argued that since anti-Semitism in textbooks is hard to measure, searching the Internet can be a better tool to know about current trends in hatred of Jews and Israel in Europe.
The afternoon session included several presentations on incitement in the Palestinian Authority.
Yossi Kupperwasser, director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, showed numerous videos of incitement against Israel by Palestinian children that was broadcast on Palestinian television. His discussion was followed by an insightful presentation by Dr. Anat Berko, a former t.-col. in the IDF, who has spent years interviewing Palestinian female suicide bombers.
These two discussions seemed to send a chill up the spines of two American Hebrew University students sitting in the back. Formerly they had been discussing grant proposals and internships, but the images of Palestinian women smiling about how many civilians they could murder surprised them. “It’s unbelievable,” one whispered to the other.
Alan Baker emphasized that one of the most interesting perspectives he had brought to the conference was that of Prof. Gregory Gordon, a former legal officer of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Gordon explained that his job had been to examine incitement by Radio Rwanda and others and prosecute those whose incitement was directly related to genocide. Comparing the incitement that formed the background to the Rwandan genocide, he discussed Iranian incitement against Israel.
“I think in the context of nuclear weapons development there is a case that could be made about incitement to genocide... The crime is committed when the words are uttered.”
The conference was deemed a success by its organizers.
The JCPA hopes to use it as a launch pad to bring the discussion to the US and Europe.
Michael Martes, the recently appointed resident representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, was very pleased.
“I’m new here but we have been cooperating with the JCPA for many years. I think this is a subject that is very much unknown in Europe and although here we are preaching to the converted, this is a message that has not been conveyed to a broader public in the US and Europe."